How To Use Horror Sound Effects


by Productiontrax

In this guide, we’ll discuss how to effectively use horror sound effects in your next super spooky project. We’ll briefly look at why good sound effects are so hard to find, the benefits of using royalty free horror sound effects, and the types of sounds that you might expect to need when creating a horror film or suspenseful project.

Why are good sound effects so hard to find?

The short answer is that great sound effects are hard to find because they are really hard to create. A single 5 second sound effect can take that many hours to create, and more. Just like a filmmaker plans a shoot, it takes a sound designer several hours to plan and execute the recording.

For ambience sound effects, that means finding a location and letting the audio recorders run. Often, audio content producers will need to capture several hours of ambient sound (like a thunderstorm, or city sounds) to have enough material to edit down into something a film professional can import seamlessly into their projects.

For single sounds, that could be hiring an “actor” or developing a strategy, often through trial and error, for making the sound effect with the right mix of materials and techniques. And this can be much harder than it (forgive the pun…) sounds. Foley artists can use all sorts of unexpected techniques from dropping a steak on the floor to simulate a punch, to leveraging electronic instruments to create exotic effects. Often it the sound you hear and associate with an image is not what actually produced the sound.

After the initial sound is recorded, a sound designer needs to edit, edit, edit. That means filtering out unwanted noise, cleaning up starts and stops, and adding processing effects. All of this can take several more hours to produce, and lots of very expensive equipment. It’s no wonder high-quality sound effects are really hard to find. Remember this the next time you’re searching for a realistic horror sound effect!

Benefits of Royalty Free Horror Sound Effects

The primary benefit of using a royalty free sound effects library for finding horror effects is cost. Sound effects can pile up, especially in large projects. But there are pros and cons to consider when weighing the option to have your sound design custom produced. Here are some benefits and disadvantages of each:

Royalty Free Horror Sound Effects

  • Best suited for smaller projects
  • Ability to pick and choose sounds
  • Easy to swap out sounds that might not work without re-recording
  • Effects are affordable when used strategically
  • Generally non-exclusive - another project could use the same sounds
  • Virtually lead time for getting sounds because they are premade
  • Online sound effects libraries typically have hundreds of thousands of sound effects available, which can make searching difficult (or easy!)

Custom Sound Design

  • Best suited for larger projects
  • Sound designer will leverage their expertise to create the effects track
  • Changing sounds can often require a lot of time and rework
  • Sound designers have an expensive salary, but their time and expertise can outweigh the licensing costs of some libraries when the project requires a lot of customized sound
  • Generally exclusively owned and customized for the project
  • Creating new sound effects takes a lot of time, money, and careful planning
  • No need to search through libraries of sound effects

Types of sound effects common for horror films and scary projects

There are many different sound effects from a variety of different fx categories to consider when developing a scary project’s sound design. Horror films in particular can utilize a number of different ambiences and effects to create a truly terrifying experience.

Tool Sound Effects

Every horror film needs a villain, and that villain needs a weapon. From the classic knives and swords to chainsaws, hammers, and pickaxes, tool sound effects should be high on your list as a must-have for any horror production.

Metal Sounds

For ghosts and ghouls on halloween, you’ll definitely need rattling chains and metal sounds to resurrect the dead, er... undead?

Human Body Sound Effects

No one will believe that your main character is running through the forest if you can’t hear their feet running on the ground through the leaves. Likewise, footsteps approaching, heavy breathing, and heartbeats can all ratchet up tension in horror and suspense dramas. Add in blood splatter and rustling clothing, and you have enough sound effects to create the most haunted of houses on the block to scare your Halloween Trick-or-Treaters.

Fight Sound Effects

No horror film is complete without a heart-attack inducing altercation between hero and villain. For that you’ll need fight sounds, including punching, stabbing, grunting, and more. Bring back the metal sounds (above) and weapons for added blood pressure increases.

Weather Sound Effects

Finally, don’t forget to leverage ambient sounds to help set the stage. Wind, rain, thunder, crickets, and other spooky nighttime ambience can help establish location and help your audience feel at unease.


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